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Ukraine’s archaic education system must change

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Feb. 15, 2012, 5:36 p.m. | Op-ed — by Marta Farion

Marta Farion

The global community is focused on Ukraine’s policies of centralization of control and the country’s East versus West divisionary tactics. Education is prime territory for this process. The drafts of a law on higher education proposed a year ago and again in December provide a tangible example of conflicting world views. Ukraine’s Ministry of Education, Research and Sports, led by Dmytro Tabachnik, marked the year-end holidays by proposing yet another draft law on higher education to codify control of the nation’s universities.

Days later, two additional draft laws intended to integrate Ukraine into the European educational systems were registered in Ukraine’s parliament – one by Arseniy Yatseniuk and Lesya Orobets, members of parliament and the Front of Change Party, and another by Yuri Miroshnichenko, a member of parliament and the representative of President Viktor Yanukovych. The proposed drafts facilitated more public and academic discussions on education reform.

Ministry attempts to pass a Soviet-style law failed last year due to resounding opposition embodied in student protests, and domestic and international demands for European standards and transparency. Kyiv Mohyla Academy, along with leading Ukrainian intellectuals, political and civic leaders, spoke unapologetically for autonomy and academic freedom.

There is general agreement that the country’s archaic system does not provide for academic freedom, university autonomy, curriculum choices, Ph.D. programs, transparency in admissions and degree awards, independence in research, management and administration, and achievement of higher educational standards. The issue of certification of degrees must finally be brought into focus as well.

The absurdity of the ministry’s refusal to certify foreign academic degrees and credits, even from the best universities in the world, such as Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, Sorbonne and others makes a mockery of Ukraine’s entire educational system. And yet, the ministry continues to promote the current antiquated Soviet relic of certification known as “nostrifikatsia.”

Another serious issue of contention is the still-in-place Soviet system that artificially divides education and research. Such a system prevents Ukrainian universities from competing internationally and blocks any chance to elevate their rankings. This situation persists because their own government impedes participation in activities and publications according to international requirements.

EU criticizes Tabachnyk policies


Tabachnyk’s recent attempt to receive approval for his proposed draft law from the European Union’s Commission on Education backfired. Inna Sovsun, director of the Center for Society Research and faculty member of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, summarized the EU’s report in a thoughtful article published on Feb. 3 (education.unian.net/ukr/detail/192128). The EU criticized the ministry’s focus on overwhelming central regulations, lack of innovation and guarantees of institutional autonomy and academic freedom, and dismissed the government’s continuous empty rhetoric about “guaranteeing the quality of education” as political maneuvering.

Clash of Ideology, special Interests

It appears that a clash of ideologies exists within the government between the president on one hand and the minister of education on the other.

In 2010, Yanukovych announced a proclamation outlining his position on general reforms, including the area of education (Ukaz No 926/2010 of Sep 20, 2010).

The president instructed the education minister to “provide real autonomy to the leading institutions of higher learning as a means to improve the quality of higher education…” The president repeated his position throughout the year in the specific sentence: “The goal of reforms of the system of education is to raise the level of competitiveness of Ukrainian education, and the integration of Ukraine’s education system into a European educational space.”

Ukraine signed the Bologna Declaration in 2010, a pledge by 29 countries in Europe to reform the structures of their higher education systems in a convergent way and promised to comply with requirements for integration of higher education into European educational standards. To this date, Ukraine has failed to comply with its lawful obligations. Tabachnik directly usurps this agreement.

If Yanukovych’s word is true, then Tabachnik’s proposals directly challenge the stated goals of the president and circumvent Ukraine’s national interest. Unfortunately, Tabachnikhas become a lightning rod and continues to foment controversy and confrontation. When the minister’s agenda abrogates the president’s program with impunity, it calls into question the president’s role and authority. Creative manipulation of power, such as this, is counterproductive to Ukraine’s intellectual and economic prosperity.

It is well past the time for the government to stop empty rhetoric on reform. Continued lip service to academic reform, while implementing a contrary agenda, will bring ridicule, scorn and ultimately, failure.

Time to shape future is now

Genuine steps must be taken now to secure Ukraine’s competitive position in education and movethe country to join the world community. It is imperative to Ukraine’s national intereststo raiseacademic standards and provide opportunities for innovation that lead to economic prosperity. The price of failure to implement true reforms is high. Education’s importance to the growth of a vibrant, broad and robust economy in Ukraine underscores the difference between fundamental reform and a step backward.

Ultimately, the forces of change will not be stopped. Change is essential and it is inevitable. The people of Ukraine chose freedom and self-determination. The National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy has been leading the country’s reform in education since its re-establishment twenty years ago. A new generation of Ukrainians educated in such an environment testifies to this irreversible change.

Tabachnik’s policies are doomed to fail. A culture of arrogance, control, retribution and archaic systems is unsustainable. The choice is between preparing for the future or being doomed to past failures. Ukraine’s government has an obligation to protect freedom, independence and the security of current and future generations. The time to take a stand and shape Ukraine’s future is …now.

Marta Farion is president of the Kyiv Mohyla Foundation of America.
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AL BALA Feb. 15, 2012, 6:53 p.m.    

The absurdity of the ministry’s refusal to certify foreign academic degrees and credits, even from the best universities in the world, such as Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, Sorbonne and others makes a mockery of Ukraine’s entire educational system.

Read more: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/122508/#ixzz1mTDdIksS

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AL BALA Feb. 15, 2012, 7:15 p.m.    

Natalia DZIUBENKO-MACE, writer, James Mace’s widow:

“After all, what did you expect?

We saw the Party of Regions being established as a clear follower of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The new political leaders do not know any other political culture than that, they hate their people, they disdain the Ukrainian Constitution and Ukrainian laws.

The old political force, adjusted to the new political circumstances, is rapidly and clearly removing all the enclaves of the people’s self-activity, which were created and started to develop through such an ordeal. Suddenly we have again found ourselves in the Anti-Ukraine, as Oxana Pachlovska has aptly put it. It is the Anti-Ukraine, where the Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian word is allowed, as usual, to drag out a miserable existence,

http://www.day.kiev.ua/296318

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AL BALA Feb. 15, 2012, 7:07 p.m.    

To this date, Ukraine has failed to comply with its lawful obligations. Tabachnik directly usurps this agreement.

Read more: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/122508/20/page/1/#comments#ixzz1mTGlStew

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AL BALA Feb. 15, 2012, 7:12 p.m.    

When the minister’s agenda abrogates the president’s program with impunity, it calls into question the president’s role and authority.

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Mykhayl Feb. 15, 2012, 11:30 p.m.    

Everyone is correct yet blind at the same time. The stifling of learning goes at least to the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. Thinking was suspended for learning.

Everyone blames the religious institutions be it church, mosque or synagog of stifling progress. They may stifle but in doing so allow the majority to catch up. Their promotion of education leading so stimulation in fields as medical study leading to human rights including the respect of women and children. What the EU, USA and UA fear behind a mask of secularism is not individual independence but communal interdependence and no, &quot;Communism&quot; has only the common root word of the term. It is mutual trust that stimulate subcultures of equal values in leading the way for those who are busy with other matters, and no matter how mundane equally respected. The Soviet raised atheists did not even know such concepts existed, only fear.

True on the tainted side accommodating organizations took millenniums to reach their humanitarian potential, but too few handling too many, or absolute power corrupts absolutely; and these analogizes can go on and on... But the Mohila Academia and the Catholic Universities can work together on, for instance doctorate degrees on the Orthodox Faith of the Catholic Church and I am sure the Crimea and Medzhybizh or now Khmelnitsky districts will find advantages for themselves. This is how respect is cultivated unlike the directives of Stalin and Hitler under red schematas. Nor the antichrists Yanukovych or Obama hiding behind the veil of &quot;democracy&quot;.

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Jaroslaw Sawka Feb. 16, 2012, 1:55 a.m.    

The internet is a game changer ...offers information access denied in the past by Censors and &quot;teachers&quot; that functioned as propagandists

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